Archive for the ‘Lalibela’ Category

Matthew Birt writes:

I enjoyed reading and made good use of everyone else’s information, so I thought I ought to contribute:

 

Dec/Jan 2014

Travelled solo, independently using local transport

 

Bradt Guidebook excellent

 

General

 

Generally felt very safe and welcome

Quite a lot of hassle from kids, beggars, tourist touts, blokes in the street – quite consistent, but not that persistant and certainly not threatening in any way. Groups of kids are a right royal pain in the ____ .

 

Transport pretty good. People always really helpful – and I always got to where I was heading, even if I’m not sure how. Roads generally good and traffic free – all the driver has to worry about are the people standing in the middle of it and the aimlessly wandering livestock

Cheap tuk-tuks just about everywhere – seem to have replaced garis in most places

Mobile phone coverage generally good – cheap and quick to get sim (need photocopy of passport and photo)

 

Everything seemed very inexpensive – accomm, transport, food, etc

Easy to change cash in banks/airport

ATMs in a lot of places – Dashen and Commercial Bank worked for me

 

Forgotten how noisy Africa is, especially at night – or at least it was where I slept. Every night. My top tip – take the finest ear plugs money can buy. As well as eye drops (for the dust) and lip balm (for the sun).

 

Budget hotels – apart from in Harar – always provided towel, toilet paper and soap.

 

Weather – always sunny and hot during day – 25-30 C. No rain. In some towns, pretty cold early morning and night and required two fleeces (e.g. Debark, Debre Birhan, Abese Teferi)

 

Bole Airport

 

Arrived 2am, and stayed in there until morning flight to Axum. Felt safe, although pretty cold. Nowhere nice to sleep, try and get into domestic terminal departures asap where there are comfortable loungers.

 

 

 

Axum

 

Hotel reps waiting at airport with free transport

Africa House – fine – 175B en suite single

Thought Tsion Maryam complex at 200B a rip-off, considering much of it closed and under refurbishment

Really enjoyed walk out to Debre Liqanos Monastry

 

Shire

 

Africa Hotel – fine – 150B – adjacent restaurant good but noisy at night

Nice just to be in a normal town, without the tourist ‘nonsense’

Good to walk out of town into countryside to see ‘real’ Ethiopia

 

Debark

 

Bus from Shire didn’t leave until after 7, even though told to be there at 5. Awful road. Wonderful Simien scenery for 10 hours or so!

Simien Park Hotel – good – 250B en suite single

Unique Landscape next door also looked good, but slightly more expensive.

If not trekking, negotiate hard and get a number of quotes for your day trip into the national park – tourist touts, argh!!!

 

Gondar

 

Queen Taitu Pension – 200B en suite single. Poor. No hot water, etc. Noisy.

Moved to  Belegez Pension, 200B, water still a problem, but quieter and nicer courtyard

Four Sisters Restaurant – great food and fantastic dancing. Before I left I didn’t think some contrived dance show for tourists would be a highlight of my trip. But it was. Go and see for yourself.

 

As solo, negotiated guide fee down to 100B (rather than 200) for castle complex

 

Kosoye also a highlight. Easy to get to (30-40 mins north of Gondar). Had a very nice breakfast at Befikir Ecolodge, which is visible from main road. Staff super friendly. Then great walk down into valley. Scout cost 100B, and worth every penny. Tough going.  Highly recommended.

 

Bahir Dar

 

Wudie Pension -  nice big room – 200B.

Ghion looked really run down to me, although good spot for meeting fellow tourists.

Tread carefully with the tourist touts in town. Both half day trips to the lake monastries and waterfall were shambolic and a rip-off. Average price paid seemed to be 200B/person, but I’m sure you can get for less. Get itinerary and any additional costs written down. You have been warned! Good for meeting other (equally hacked-off) tourists though!

Lucky with Blue Nile Falls – water was flowing – and another highlight.

 

Lalibela

 

There for Christmas, so very busy and accomm prices x2 or x3 normal rate

Hotel Lalibela, been refurbished and now rather swish. $45/double en suite

Private Roha – very basic, but felt safe – 400B/twin shared facilities

Recommend Unique Restarant opposite Asheton – cheap and good fun

Walk up to Asheton Maryam good, although hard

 

Used local guide  – Zewudu Melak – +251 (0) 913636414 – for churches – nice guy – only ‘guide’ I used that I can recommend

 

Lake Hayk

 

Logo Hayk Lodge (I think, maybe name changed, not sure)

This place could probably be very peaceful and relaxing, but not on Christmas Day with a huge party going on!

230B/hut ensuite for okayish room (150B if you’re Ethiopian!)

 

Debre Birhan

 

Akalu Hotel – reasonable place – 100B for ensuite

Really nice restaurant at Eva Hotel

 

Bishoftu

 

Alaf Hotel – bit noisy and water issues – 170B en suite. Great view of lake

 

Awash

 

Buffet D’Auoache – 150B/room – pretty nice and peaceful place. Dusty, nondescript town though

 

Managed to find a ‘guide’ to get me into Awash National Park by asking around at hotels. Hired a good minibus and driver for 1000B for the day (6am-6pm). Really enjoyed the reserve, it’s not the Serengeti, but saw quite a lot of game. Waterfalls fab. Awash Falls Lodge looked nice and was a good spot for lunch

 

Abese Teferi

 

Kebsch Int Lodge – decent room – 150B en suite; good restaurant attached

 

Got 6am bus direct to Kuni, found ‘guide’ quickly albeit using sign language and pointing to pictures in my Bradt Guide and visited Kuni Muktar Mountain Nyala Sanctuary. Not sure about ‘30-45 mins walk to river’. I got taken 2 hours up a bloody mountain, then 2 hours back down it. Not my ideal start to the day at 7 am. Fantastic though. Saw plenty of (skittish) nyala, warthogs, reedbuck and hyena.

 

Harar

 

Everyone I met moaned about the hotels in this place – except for those in the cultural guesthouses. The only town where I found that hotels were full

Trawfik Sharif Hotel – bit grim – bucket shower – 150B

Tewodros – 160B ensuite – okayish – despite stinking communal bathrooms at entrance

Belayneh – only offering doubles for 300B and water issues

Heritage Plaza looked more run down and mismanaged than guidebook suggests

Harar Ras – looked best bet – been refurbished – cheapest room 230B – good restaurant serving absolutely wonderful pizzas

Fresh Touch Restaurant – good, but expensive (for Ethiopia)

Hyena feeding cost me 100B – the greatest concentration of tourists I saw in one place throughout my 4 weeks in the country

 

Addis Ababa

 

Almaz Pension – 200B shared bathroom – clean, friendly, quiet, safe

Yod Abyssinia – good fun, if expensive – don’t go alone, sit at the front and be of above average height, otherwise you are liable to get dragged up on stage to dance – much to the amusement of the local crowd. This can lead to embarrassing flashbacks.

 

Have a good trip.

Mits writes:

I recently toured Ethiopia on my own and generally prefer to discover the sights on my own as I did in Bahir Dar and Gondar.

However, in Lalibela I was referred by my hotel to Sofonias, or Sofi for short, and pleasantly surprised at the exceptional service and the insights and facts I received from Sofi. His English is excellent so it was easy to communicate and he came across as bright, ambitious and considerate. He had a great command of Ethiopian history and current affairs. We saw the churches, parts of the town and shared some tej. We had some really intense chats on topics that ranged from religion to land use rights and the economy. He went the extra mile and advised me on the best times to go see the churches again in the week after our tour based on what was happening and when.

Sofi also arranged a 1 day private bus ride back to Addis with other travelers so we were able to split the costs. I am truly grateful for the comfort and shorter trip than I experienced on the public buses I’d used in getting to Lalibela.

Sofi can also guide you through Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar. He can be reached on +251 912 014 360 or hiletework@yahoo.com.

 

Christina writes:
All the rooms of the Africa Hotel in Axum have been painted and it is a pleasure to sleep in this cheap hotel and have a drink in the garden.
A cheap option to sleep in Lalibela is the Asheton Hotel. The rooms of the Asheton Hotel have been painted and doors and windows renewed. The bathroom is not  so clean.
Very near to the Asheton is the Seven Olives Hotel, where a drink or dinner in the gardens is a real treat.

Teresa Shepro writes:

I returned from a 3 week trip November 4th. I had a pre-planned trip to the Omo Valley arranged through Galaxy Tours in Addis. Margeret, my office contact, was very helpful. My driver/guide, Mr. Habtamu, had a great knowledge of the area, and was very savvy and at the same time respectful in the tribal areas. He is well-known locally and just delightful. Plus he has good taste in music!

I planned the Northern part if the trip in just a few days, as my traveling companion had to cancel at the last minute. Molla Kassaw in Lalibela, was recommended to me. mollakassaw5@gmail.com
He is a nice, thoughtful young man, and planned a week long tour for me. His friend, Assefa, did the driving. I wanted to at least drive though the Simien Mountains in this short visit. The road through the park is under construction and was difficult and at times tiresome (10 hours!) with all of the heavy machinery, but at the end of the day worth it for the scenery.

 

Teresa Shepro writes:

Just finished a couple of days touring the Lalibela churches. I can highly recommend this guide:
Memekia Hiletework
tel:+251 20913250490 (cell) memekia12@yahoo.com
He is knowledgeable about history and current events, and speaks English well.
I had a wonderful time!

Lalibela updates

Posted: November 15, 2013 in Lalibela
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Mark Hipgrave writes:

I have just returned from a great month in Ethiopia (Oct 6 2013 to Nov 4 2013) We took your guide (5th Edition, Nov 2010 reprint) plus the LP, both of which were very useful – yours more so!

A comment on the Lalibella chapter – Asheton Maryam monastery described on page 368:
The monastery is at 3135 metres, not 4000 metres as listed. (Maybe the 4000m is the summit of the mountain??). There is a road being built up the mountain which, when finished will pass close to the monastery, but the walk is not difficult – it took us 1 1/4 hours to get up from town. Go early and meet the schoolchildren going down to town for school.

Another comment – UNESCO should be ashamed at the shelters they have built over the Lalibela churches. With only minor extra expense they could have been supported from outside the rock recesses, rather than putting the ugly supports down beside the church walls.

Lindsey writes:
Lalibela:
-The Dashen bank will manually process atm cards if all the atms in town are out of order
-The fee for the church entrance was raised to 50 USD
-Lal hotel no longer accepts visa cards
-A good guide for Lalibela is Leul (Ethiopian Cell: 0913228565). Some friends of mine passed along Leul’s number after an amazing visit to Lalibela. We had an equally amazing time with him as our guide. He has mastered the art of tour guiding that many in Ethiopia have not– he knows when to talk and when not to. We spent two nights/three days in Lalibela. Leul took us to the first cluster of churches Friday afternoon. We started Saturday morning by touring the second cluster of churches, then accompanied Leul to the market, where we met his father and observed him bargaining for a goat. We joined Leul’s family for lunch and a coffee ceremony at his house. He picked us up Sunday morning at 6 am to attend one of the masses at the churches, and brought along the white scarfs required to attend the mass. Leul is an absolute gem, and all this cost less than the entrance fee for the churches! Several other friends have used Leul as a guide and have all been very satisfied with their experience.
Gondar:
-Golden gate restaurant does not have Chinese food. It is mostly Ethiopian food. We thought it was overpriced for the food we ordered

Romana Roschinsky writes:

Just returned from a holiday in Ethiopia in July/August 2013. Your guide was really helpful. Although I did not have the latest verision, we ere in general very happy with the recommendations.
A few comments.

Ghion Hotel Bahir Dar.
The room we got for 300birr was ok, but not much more.
We approached the reception to organise a tour to the monastries. They referred us to a guy on the porch. Later we found out that he is some relative of the manager.
We were booked for a tour and promised to see between 4-5 monastries the next day starting from 8.00. The tour was said to be 250birr/person and last around 4-5 hours. We were told there was an extra 100 birr entrance fee for Ura Kidane Mihret church but he adviced us that woud be worth it. And we could enter the monastry compounds of the other monastries without paying and decide if we wanted to enter the buildings. Then we would be charged accordingly. We thought allright.
We were ready the next day. Had to wait with all other tourists for an hour, but that was ok. We went to Zege Peninsula where we were welcomed by our guide. We visited Ura Kidane Mihret and it was perfectly fine. Then we made it back to the boat.
Passing another island the boat guy said the monastery would be closed, but thhere was a museum that the men could enter. The men on our boat refused out of solidarity. We approached a second island and disembarked. We wanted wo move around the compound but were told we woul dhave to pay yet another 100birr per person. We refused, discussed that we had been told we could at least move around on th ecompound and asked to be brought to another place. The boat guy did so but at the next monastry the same game. We refused again. As “compensation” he offered us to take us to the Nile outlet. We agreed. The promised Hippos were nowhere to be seen because: The temperatures were too cold. What a stupid lie.
Back at Ghion Hotel We approached our organizer. First I asked him to give back the extra 50birr he had charged me but not the other tourists. He did that. Then all of us complained that we did not get what we payed for and were really disappointed. We asked him what he yould offer us. He said it was not his fault and shoved the boat owner into our faces. He tried to run off several times but we always managed to confront him again. He said we could go again to the lake but none of us was interested after spending hours on the water already. He refused to do anything else for us.
So I strongly advise against booking the Tana monastry tours at Ghion Hotel in Bahir Dar. A bad idea.

Gonder:
Queen Taitu Pension is a terrible accommodation. We were put into a room with mould across all walls. The smell was disgusting. We could not change rooms, as all others were booked and did not know where else to go as it was dark already.Do not stay there!!!

Lalibela:
I know this night be updated now but the entry fee is now 50 US$/ person. It’s well worth it but we were surprised be the amount.

We were told the tourist information is closed. We did not check if that was true though.

Axum: Africa Hotel: very nice place. But check the room before you pay. They wanted to give us a mould one at first.

Addis Abeba: Taitu Hotel: The main building is very nice. But the bathrooms are terrible. No toilet seats, mould, cockroaches. Still the price was ok for 300birr/night.

Simien Mountains Lodge:
We got a wet season discount and payed 90US$ for a double room. They even brought us a massive bucket full of hot water as the fog was too thick for the solar power panels to work. Very nice.

 

Sunset Bar, Lalibela

Posted: June 3, 2013 in Lalibela
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Lars writes:
Last month I travelled in Ethiopia, gratefully using the Bradt guide. In Lalibela I had a drink at a terrace that to my surprise isn’t mentioned in the Bradt. To my surprise, because it has without any doubt the best view in town. It is called Top View, but soon to be renamed Sunset Bar, for obvious reasons. It is located at the end of the same street in which Tukul Village and Roha Hotel are located. The place, and the very hospitable owner in my opinion deserve the exposure.

Terence Baker writes:

1. The biggest talking point in Ethiopia is the huge hike in entrance to Lalibela. I noticed that no one seems to pay people if they are taking their photos any more, and the shoe carriers have disappeared. See my report for GoNOMAD magazine (http://www.gonoma.net/component/content/article/21-features/4818-ethiopia-s-rock-hewn-churches) and please note my comments on the wonderful Lalibela Hudad accommodation option and the “Library Club” scam as you come down from Asheton Maryam;

2. The Cafeteria Ali Bal in Harar is now a bathroom fixtures shop; The Zubeyda Guest House in Harar is cool and interesting but certainly not spotless;

3. The only place in the whole country where the children seemed spiteful, for some maybe threatening, was by Lake Ziway where the hippo boats leave from. I almost clocked one for throwing a stone at the Woodland kingfisher I was looking at through binoculars.

4. We were very lucky to see Ethiopian wolf on the Bale Mountains, and more so to see a Bale monkey (which I photographed) beside the road. It was very misty as we drove down from the Sanetti Plateau towards the Harena Forest, which might have forced this rare monkey farther down.